I trust you had a good night’s sleep and are feeling bright and perky. No? Well, maybe you’re one of the 16 million UK adults who suffer from insomnia. 36% of us struggle to get to sleep at least once a week, and 55% of people aged 18-24 at least once a month. These statistics are concerning. Why? Well, I’m a big advocate of laughter, but I suggest it is, in fact, sleep that is the best medicine. The Dalai Lama puts it slightly differently: “sleep is the best meditation”.
Sleep is the most effective, cheapest and portable therapeutic treatment. It repairs your immune system, helps you think clearly, regulates weight and blood pressure, helps to stave off a whole range of diseases from heart issues to diabetes. It’s vital for mental health too. It manages emotional well-being, keeps worry, anxiety and depression at bay. Sleep is so important, we need lashings of it every night to keep us fit and healthy.
To sleep or not to sleep?
It’s had its critics, sleep. Novelist Virginia Woolf described it as “that deplorable curtailment of the joy of life.” Rapper Tupac Shakur declared that “the only time I have problems is when I sleep”. And Shakespeare’s Scottish king lamented that “good things of the day begin to droop and drowse, whiles night’s black agent to their preys do rouse.” (Macbeth, III, II, 45). Well, no disrespect to big Mac, but maybe if he’d enjoyed a good kip, he’d have woken up in a better mood and not felt so, well, murderous.
I am a champion sleeper. I’ll be the first to admit that I take refuge in sleep when life gets hard or I’m feeling low. It’s always my drug of choice. But too much sleep is just as bad as too little. As with all things in life, balance is needed.
World Sleep Day
This Friday, the 18th, is World Sleep Day, and if you are struggling from too little, too much, interrupted or troubled sleep, help is available. https://worldsleepday.org
https://sleepscotland.org cater particularly for families, but if you’re sleep-deprived and want to chat to someone about it, you’ll find the national sleep helpline number here: https://thesleepcharity.org.uk And the NHS Inform has compiled a self-help guide: Sleep problems and insomnia self-help guide | NHS inform
Let’s leave the last word to peace activist Mahatma Gandhi: “Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”
Read more on how to take care of yourself by reading our article on self-care books in 2022
Or why not check out our Virtual Relaxation Space!
By Lesley McRobb